The strokeplay was iridescent. On a tricky pitch KL Rahul struck the ball with grace, flow, timing and a refreshing sense of freedom. Gifted he is. 

The swing of the bat was as smooth as the willow striking the ball. The sphere streaked through the gaps, cleared the fence. The surface did not matter.

Skipper Rahul’s astonishing 98 not out – he fittingly ended the match with a thumping six off Shardul Thakur – off just 42 deliveries with seven fours and a stunning eight sixes enabled Punjab Kings race past CSK’s 134 in only 13 overs with six wickets remaining in this Indian Premier League (IPL) clash at Dubai.   

Rahul’s blistering display of ball-striking gave his team’s run-rate a boost and lent Punjab Kings a glimmer of hope if the other results went its way.

For CSK, suffering a hammering, this was its third successive loss. 

READ: Rahul hits 98 as Punjab beats Chennai, third loss in a row for CSK in IPL 2021

Punjab lost wickets along the way – Mayank Agarwal was desperately unlucky to be adjudged leg-before to Thakur – but Rahul was in a different zone, striking Josh Hazlewood over his head and then pulling the Aussie for a six and a four.

He whipped bowlers for sixes. His off-drives were gorgeous. 

Rahul indeed was a one-man demolition army. Punjab was 51 for two after Powerplay, and Rahul’s contribution was 38.

He continued in the same manner, clearing the fence effortlessly even as he stayed balanced. Fittingly, Rahul delivered the final blow. 

Earlier, even as wickets fell around him, opener Faf du Plessis (76 off 55)held the innings together, rotating the strike, striking the odd big blow. 

The Punjab Kings seamers employed the short ball ploy capably and CSK, inserted, lost wickets on pitch that was rather two-paced.

READ: IPL 2021: Who is CSK’s new recruit Dominic Drakes?

The versatile left-armer Arshdeep Singh consumed the in-form Ruturaj Gaikwad on the pull with a mean lifter.  

The left-handed Moeen Ali succumbed to a delivery of lift and movement from Arshdeep.

CSK was 32 for three in the seventh over when Robin Uthappa pulled Chris Jordan to deep square-leg’s hands. And Ambati Rayudu’s attempted slash off Jordan proved fatal. 

MS Dhoni’s problems against the googly continued when Ravi Bishnoi castled the CSK skipper.  

The ball did not roll for CSK. Rahul was King.

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